A study of seniors found that those who could chew properly had a significantly lower risk of developing dementia - whether they had their own teeth or dentures.
Swedish researchers have found an association between elderly people’s ability to chew properly and the risk of dementia.
When I was a kid, I took chewing properly for granted. But I used to enjoy watching television ads for a product that was a glue to keep people’s dentures in place in their mouths. Prior to using the product, the people in the ads would bite into something hard like an apple, and their dentures would fall out. Dentures falling out seemed to be akin on the comedy scale to pants falling down—unless it happens to you.
Aging and cognitive problems
But now that I’m older and have had a dental challenge or two of my own, I have a better appreciation for the ability to bite into food and chew it properly. As the population ages, along with dental problems, we also run the risk of cognitive problems, such as memory loss, problem solving capabilities, and various forms of dementia.
Previous research established an association between not having teeth and loss of cognitive function and a higher risk of dementia. Researchers surmised that having few or no teeth makes it difficult to chew, and this in turn may lead to reduced blood flow to the brain.
Something to chew on
The latest research study from Sweden is the first to study chewing ability in a national representative sample of elderly people. Researchers studied 557 people, aged 77 or older. They found that people who had difficulty chewing hard food, such as apples, were significantly more likely to develop cognitive impairments.
When researchers took all variables into account that may impact cognition (sex, age, education, and mental health problems), the association held. Chewing with one’s own teeth or with dentures was equally beneficial.
It’s just one more reason to take care of our teeth and brush and floss regularly!